August 2019 ABeNotes

August 2019 ABE Gives Back!

Author: Carol Weaver

What a tremendous problem to have! We have ten days before our next ABE/Biological Sciences blood drive for Versiti Blood Center of Indiana (formerly Indiana Blood Center) and the schedule is full! We have 26 whole-blood appointments and 4 double-red-cell appointments. Our representative is working to see if they can add a technician to this drive so that we can offer some additional appointments. We will let you know if/when those become available. In the meantime, I always knew you were amazing and this is just proof!

Each unit of blood can save the lives of up to three people. Thank you for being a part of the solution! Our final drive for 2019 will be November 5. Please let me know if you would like to go ahead and make an appointment for that drive.

August 2019 ABE Centennial News

Centennial Historical Committee Formed

Purdue ABE will be 100 years old in 2021.  Jane Frankenberger, Bob Stwalley, and Becky Peer have begun collecting source materials to produce Purdue ABE Centennial and new-building-opening publications.  Anyone having documents that highlight interesting elements of our history that would like them included in the project is strongly encouraged to contact us.  Photographs of past projects and personnel engaged in ABE activities would be particularly valuable to our efforts (your originals will be returned).  We will also be collecting oral histories to add flavor to the materials, so if you have a suggestion for an individual for us to contact, please let us know.  We have a fairly strong written source for our first 40 years (Knoll, H.B., 1963. The Story of Purdue Engineering – Chapter 13), and our hope is to detail the balance of our first 100 years and produce something for posterity that documents how we reached our present standing.  Several of our retired faculty reach back fairly well into the years since the publication of the Knoll book, but we are also interested in student and stakeholder/partner perspectives.  Anyone wishing to collaborate on this project is welcome to contact any of us (,,  All offers of assistance will be graciously accepted!

August 2019 Alumni News

Author: Carol Weaver

Bob Malcomb (BS '78) is one of our faithful alumni who return to campus year after year to share with our seniors in ABE 49000, senior seminar. He shared a story with me recently:

You never know where an idea will come from. I heard of an ABE Professor in the 1940s and 1950s who felt that farmers were much too busy to be sitting on tractors all day. So he proposed a spool in the middle of each field. The tractor was controlled by a cable that wrapped around the spool. When it reach the spool, it shut off. It worked well. ln fact, he used to on his own farm but did not tell his wife. When she saw the tractor discing by itself, she thought he had been "disced"

I use that on my own yard when I don't want to mow in the heat. It works.

On average, 1 person is injured by unexploded mines every 22 minutes. It's a big problem. He invented a machine that's solar powered. It goes around and around a spool, looking for metal objects. When it finds one, it sprays the ground pink. Just like the tractor, when it reaches the spool, it shuts off. Autonomous machines, the low-tech way. 

Amanda (Montgomery) (MS '15) and Chris (BS '12, MS '14) Limiac welcomed home Elizabeth Rose (6 lbs 7 oz, 20 inches) on July 18. Congratulations to our newest BoilerBaby!

Jonathan Claussen (PhD BE '11) was promoted to Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering and granted tenure at Iowa State University. Dr. Claussen studied with Dr. Marshall Porterfield. Congratulations!

August 2019 Faculty News

Professor Kevin Solomon was one of 46 university faculty across the US awarded a prestigious Early Career Award from the Department of Energy designed to “support exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years”. The award provides the Solomon Lab $750, 000 over the next 5 years to develop synthetic biology and systems biology tools to engineer next generation microbial bioenergy platforms. This recognition and research support complements Dr. Solomon’s ongoing efforts as a member of the multi-institutional Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC) to advance the field through policy, education and technical roadmaps. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

August 2019 Graduate Student News

Jennifer Stevens, an MS student with Dr. Mosier, created a video for "Communicating Science to the Public" - check it out!

August 2019 Maha Fluid Power Laboratory News

Author: Meike Ernst, Photo by Paul Kalbfleisch

Maha Graduates

On July 10th, Rene Chacon defended his doctoral thesis, entitled “Virtual Prototyping of Axial Piston Machines of Swashplate Type,” presenting a novel algorithm for designing the named positive displacement machines. Traditional experimental trial-and-error design strategies for these widely used hydraulic pumps/motors are expensive and time consuming--- virtual prototyping provides an efficient and cost-effective way to develop a new unit architecture by testing the performance of possible design solutions via virtual models of the decisive physical phenomena. Chacon’s work gives heavy focus to the design of the valve plate, which regulates flow into and out of the chambers that displace fluid in these machines, as well as to the main lubricating interfaces of these machines, which play a key role in their overall efficiency and component life. In conceiving an algorithm capable of orchestrating the lubricating interface models and valve plate optimization scheme developed by other members of the Maha Fluid Power Research Center research team, Chacon was able to construct the virtual prototype of a 24 cc unit. To validate it, a physical prototype was constructed, achieving 30 hours of runtime from a single design iteration, exclusively conducted in the virtual world. While this is the end of Chacon’s journey at Purdue, it is part of a budding new approach to axial piston machine design that yet stands at the beginning of its evolution. Chacon’s work not only advances that approach, but also serves as a reminder of how important it is not only to optimize an end product, or its manufacture, but also its design. On behalf of the Maha Fluid Power Research Center, we would like to thank Chacon for his valuable contribution, and wish him all the best on his journey forward!

August 2019 National AgrAbility Project News

Author: Charles Baldwin and Steve Swain

Chuck Baldwin, National AgrAbility Project’s underserved populations outreach coordinator, gave a presentation on AgrAbility at the Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies Conference in Millersburg, OH, August 2.

Chuck also exhibited AgrAbility material with a table and pop-up banner. Materials included general AgrAbility literature  and brochures on arthritis (Plain Facts About Arthritis), back health, the Plowshares Accessing Horses and Horse-Drawn Vehicles, and the “It’s About Hope” DVDs.

The event was sponsored by the Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies Association ( ) (APASA). The more than 50 persons in attendance were primarily professionals working in various organizations that serve the Plain Anabaptist communities and included PhDs from various universities studying the Amish, medical doctors and nurses, Extension personnel, and others looking to gain insight into and improve services to the Plain communities. Sessions included such interesting topics as “Amish and Recent Tax Issues”, “How Cultural-Religious Thought Affects Applied Practice and Behavior”, “Choosing Whom to Trust: Autonomy vs. Reliance on Others in Medical Decision-Making among the Plain People”, “Attitudes toward GMO Corn Usage among Amish & Mennonite Farmers”, and one of the most interesting: “Legal Issues and Law Enforcement”, presented by a judge and a sergeant from the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office.

Indiana AgrAbility took the month of July to plan and load for our displays at the Indiana State Fair.  The displays include two days with Purdue Extension in the Agriculture/Horticulture Building as a rotating exhibit and a display in the FFA Pavilion for the entire 17 days of the fair.  The two locations on both sides of the racetrack allow us to contact two different groups of people attending the fair.

Indiana AgrAbility conducted four farm visits to new and continuing clients around Indiana.  Each visit was unique and presented different challenges.  Two of the visits were VR assessments.  One was for access to a new-to-him grain truck and the other was accessibility and job coaching for a farmer with a TBI raising cattle.  The other two visits were introductory.  One survived an accident where a semi hit a tractor and the other was a TBI wanting to return to employment in agriculture.

August 2019 Study Abroad News

2019 Industrial Biotechnology Study Abroad

Dr. Kevin Solomon led an exciting two-week study abroad trip to Germany with 16 sophomores and juniors from ABE, ChE, and Agronomy.  Students visited various sites around Germany to explore the range of products that employ the use microbes somewhere in the process.  The students learned about: the use of yeast and bacteria in the production of food products including beer, wine, and pickled/fermented food products;  anaerobic digestion of animal and human wastes to produce biogas for energy; and cultivation of specialty microbial products for the biotech, biopharma and food industry. The students visited industries in and around Munich, Stuttgart, Heidelberg, Cologne, and Berlin.  Coleen Riley, our biological engineering lab manager, helped to chaperone the trip. Pictures include the group enjoying a European football (soccer!) match (left),  Heidelberg Castle, and Gut.Gut, producer of kombucha and kefwater (below).

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